Artist in Nimes

Jean Claude Portal is a modern day artist with a passion for ancient art. Bach and Michel Ange (Michelangelo) are his muses. And like all true blue-blooded Frenchman, the corrida (bullfighting) is “art” in the arena.

In his studio in Nimes, France, Jean Claude earns a living as an artist, creating old world themes for new homes and renovations. From table tops to counter tops; lavs to entryways; ornamental decor, sculptures, carvings, etchings in marble and stone; Jean Claude’s art is tastefully, modernly, old.

Last weekend, at my request, he gave me and some friends a tour of his studio and presented his work. It was like stepping back in time and a rare opportunity to visit the work space of a baroque sculptor.

I knew Jean Claude as a musician with a passion for Bach and an infatuation with Gypsy rhythms. He and my Frenchman play gypsy guitar together a few times every week, entertaining in restaurants, and local soirees. But during a casual conversation I learned that he earns his living as an artist, like his mother before him. I asked to see his studio. He said yes; and so Saturday, before we all gathered in a local pub to hear he and my frenchman strum and thump out some more gypsy music, we stopped by JC Portal Marbrier.

His work, all with an old world feel, varies from astrological and unusual etchings in marble to elaborate and traditional carvings in granite. A deeply religious man, his passion for the Christ is evident in many of his personal works, which include scenes from the Crucifixion and Virgin Mother and Christ Child.

Among the tools, marble, granite and works in progress, his two other passions are subtly represented: in his office, a guitar, and hanging from the wall in a back room, the head of a fighting bull.

Kate, I told him about you, my art professor friend; I asked if I could present him and his work to you when you visit. He said, bien sur, of course.

American Food

I’m behind in posts. I’ve been in France one week as of today. The week leading up, as you can imagine, was busy. So much to do.

I’ll catch up this week. I promise. For tonight (yes it is 10 o’clock in France; 6 hours ahead), I’ll just say, I had bacon and eggs for dinner. Yumm. The fact that after one week I am writing about American food should reveal something. It was welcome to have something familiar.

More later.

Bon Voyage, Dear Friends

Sunday–5 days until France.

Friday, 15 of my dear friends joined me for dinner at a great local restaurant to say “bon voyage.” It was terrific! I felt so special to know that these beautiful women are my friends. Some are closer than others, but as I told them, collectively they have been a strong support group for me.

So I had an idea. I didn’t want them to buy me gifts. No room to pack them. So I gave each of them a gift. But rather than buying gift, I gave each of them something special that belongs to me; something that would make them think of me. I carefully chose each item and thoughtfully decided who would get it.

Some examples:

A doily that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Where ever I’ve lived, it always has a pillar candle resting in the center.

A decorative clay vase I bought while traveling in Jordan.

A piece of pottery I made several years ago (during my primitive stage).

A tuscan-style vase and pitcher that I displayed in an alcove in my kitchen.

A hand-tooled leather handbag, antiquish, that always hung on my vanity mirror.

A necklace I bought in Jordan (for my friend who loves chunky jewelry and makes her own).

A print I bought in Paris.

A book, “The Elements of Style,” for my friend who is just starting her writing career. My favorite writing book. It was in my suitcase and ready to go to France. I can get another.

I was so excited to share these treasures with my friends. It makes me feel as though I’ve left a piece of me with them, so I’m not really leaving them. And I wanted each of them to know how special they are to me.

Bon Voyage, dear friends. You all better visit me in the French Riviera!